The electronic doctor will see you now. NHS begins collaboration with Amazon Alexa

The NHS has begun a collaboration with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant to give people ‘reliable’ health information in their home.

People will be able to access verified health information from the NHS’s website via the voice-assisted device.

The technology will help patients, especially the elderly, blind and those who cannot access the internet through traditional means, to get professional, NHS-verified health information in seconds, through simple voice commands.

Amazon’s algorithm uses information from the NHS website to provide answers to voice questions such as:

  • “Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?”
  • “Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?”
  • “Alexa, what are the symptoms of chickenpox”

The technology has the potential to reduce the pressure on the NHS and GPs by providing information for common illnesses.

Voice search has been increasing rapidly. By 2020, half of all searches are expected to be made through voice-assisted technology.

NHSX will look at ways of making more NHS services available to all patients through digital technology. The announcement supports the commitment in the NHS Long Term Plan to make more NHS services available digitially.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “We want to empower every patient to take better control of their healthcare and technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home, reducing the pressure on our hardworking GPs and pharmacists.

“Through the NHS Long Term Plan, we want to embrace the advances in technology to build a health and care system that is fit for the future and NHSX will drive this revolution to bring the benefits to every patient, clinician and carer.”

Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said: “The public need to be able to get reliable information about their health easily and in ways they actually use. By working closely with Amazon and other tech companies, big and small, we can ensure that the millions of users looking for health information every day can get simple, validated advice at the touch of a button or voice command.

“Part of our mission at NHSX is to give citizens the tools to access services and information directly, and partnerships such as this are an important part of achieving this.”

In Scotland, NHS 24 – the national telehealth and telecare organisation – is working with NHS England to see how the service can be more personalised to Scottish requirements.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government supports the approach being taken to provide people with health information from NHS-led sources. We recommend the use of NHS inform as Scotland’s national health information service, for Scottish-specific, quality-assured health information.”